By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2004-11-08 Print this article Print

The Tungsten T5, the latest device in PalmOne Inc.s line of business-targeted handheld computers, shares the strengths of the vendors previous Tungsten products—such as an excellent high-resolution display—and adds generous new internal file storage capacity as well as software tools for more effectively managing this storage.

However, while the $399 T5, which began shipping last month, is in many ways the finest handheld computer eWEEK Labs has yet tested, it remains disappointingly dependent on full-size computers for fetching mail and other network-borne data.

Most Microsoft Corp. Pocket PC handheld devices offer the option of 802.11b radios, either built-in or available as SD (Secure Digital) or CompactFlash card add-ons, which enable these devices to reach the Internet across increasingly ubiquitous 802.11b wireless networks. But no such option exists for the T5, which is puzzlingly incompatible with any 802.11b add-on radio of which were aware—a major drawback for the T5.

Click here to read PC Magazines review of the HP iPaq hx4700. As with previous Tungsten devices, the T5 ships with an internal Bluetooth radio, with which users can access the Internet to retrieve mail and fetch Web pages. Unfortunately, in the handset offerings of most U.S. wireless carriers, Bluetooth-enabled devices remain rarer than hens teeth, and unlimited-access cellular data accounts at most carriers cost about $80 per month.

The T5 includes a handy-looking wizard for establishing an Internet access connection through the Bluetooth link of a desktop or laptop machine, but PalmOne leaves the heavy lifting of configuring the PC end of this link to the user—a process that differs depending on ones Bluetooth software. Using the Bluetooth software that now ships as part of Windows XP Service Pack 2, we were not able to get this Internet-sharing connection working.

Still, for users who intend to use the T5 in a classic PC companion model or for those who do have Bluetooth-enabled phones and wireless data plans, the T5 remains an excellent handheld option.

The T5s bright, readable 320-by-480-pixel color display far outstrips most Pocket PC devices, and the T5 sports the slickest-looking interface in the industry. The T5 is powered by an Intel Corp. 416MHz XScale processor and ships with 55MB of RAM, 160MB of flash memory and an SD slot for memory and peripheral expansion.

Click here for pictures of the Tungsten T5. We put our test T5 device into its new Drive Mode, plugged its USB (Universal Serial Bus) sync cable into both a Windows and a Mac OS X desktop, and accessed the units RAM and flash storage from the desktops file manager as we would a typical USB key device—copying files and applications to and from the device without having to install PalmOnes HotSync software.

Wed like PalmOne to add the capability to use future devices in Drive Mode across a Bluetooth link, something thats not currently possible.

We were impressed that PalmOne has paired the T5s generous new storage capacity with a file manager application that ships on the device and lets users manage the files stored on the device using the same files and folders metaphor to which theyre accustomed on standard PCs.

We were pleased to find that sync-only mail accounts are simpler to configure with the VersaMail version that ships with the T5. However, we were annoyed that the T5s five-way directional pad wouldnt scroll through the mail messages wed opened; instead, we had to use the stylus to drag the applications scroll bar to read through our messages.

A single charge of the T5s nonremovable lithium polymer battery should deliver about a week of use, according to PalmOne officials. Our tests with the T5, which included frequent use of the units Bluetooth radio, bear out that claim.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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